Too Much of a Good Thing

Managing your own WordPress website is almost a full-time job. Making sure that the theme(s) and plugin(s) are always up to date and trying to publish content on a consistent schedule are just some of the tasks that never seem to be finished.

Woman at notebook computer with her hand on her forehead as though she made a coding mistake. two other programmers at computers in the background.

Taking over the responsibility for a WordPress website from someone else can be an even bigger headache, especially if you are not an experienced WordPress user or developer. It is an even more daunting exercise if the previous website managers were WordPress novices and did not adhere to website best practices.

Your First Steps

If you find yourself in this situation one of the first steps you should take is to find out just what you have on your hands. Things to check:

  • Where is the website hosted and do you have account access?
  • What version of WordPress is installed on the website?
  • What WordPress Themes are installed and which is the active theme?
  • Is the active theme a child theme of one of the other installed themes?
  • What WordPress plugins are installed?
  • Which of those plugins is activated and which are deactivated?
  • Are there active plugins with duplicate functionality?

Some Best Practices

One best practices rule is that if a theme or plugin is installed on the WordPress website and it is not being used (is not activated) then it should be deleted. The only exception to this would be if the active theme is a child theme of one of the other installed themes (the parent theme). The parent theme cannot be deleted even though it is not active because the child theme relies on the parent theme’s code.

Another best practice is to never have multiple WordPress plugins providing the same functionality. Redundancy is not always good. I recently looked at a website the had installed and active, three different SEO plugins, two caching plugins and three backup plugins, among others. At the very least, multiple plugins active on a website which are trying to accomplish the same functionality will interfere with each other and could easily render some parts of each of the plugins inoperative.

How do overlapping plugins get installed in the first place? If the website has gone through multiple managers, each could easily have installed a plugin that they liked while not recognizing a different plugin was already present and doing the same job. Or, it could be that when a new website functionality was being explored, several different plugins were installed while researching the best option and then not removed when a decision was made on which plugin to actually use.

Wrapping Up

Unused themes and plugins add technical overhead to your website and, if not kept up to date with the latest software revisions, can provide security holes for hackers. The vast majority of WordPress website hacks are due to out of date or poorly coded themes and plugins, not the WordPress core files.

Clean House! Your site will run faster and it will be more secure.